By Christopher Rosen
Updated September 28, 2015 at 12:44 PM EDT
Credit: OWN

During an emotional interview with Oprah Winfrey for Oprah: Where Are They Now, former Who’s the Boss? child star Danny Pintauro revealed that he’s been HIV-positive for the last 12 years.

“I wanted to tell you this a long time ago, but I wasn’t ready. I’m ready now,” Pintauro, who goes by Daniel now, told Winfrey. “I’m HIV-positive, and I have been for 12 years. It’s just a big deal. It’s not something people are talking about right now, really.”

As Pintauro explained in the interview, he started using crystal meth following a break-up in the early 2000s to expand his sexual boundaries. “You feel incredibly heightened when it comes to your sexuality, and everything sounds and feels exciting to you,” he said. It was during this time period that he contracted HIV.

“I was experimenting,” Pintauro told Winfrey. “And believe it or not, I thought that I was being safe in that encounter. I know exactly when it happened.”

Pintauro received his diagnosis in March of 2003. “It’s a weird combination of feelings,” he told Winfrey. “There’s this awful feeling of, ‘I’m never going to be able to have a good relationship. No one’s ever going to want me.’ That was there and that was prevalent. That moment of, ‘Oh God, I’m now going to have to have that conversation every time I meet someone.'” And he did: “My husband, our first date, we hadn’t even kissed, it was the first thing I told him,” Pintauro said. “The first thing he said was, ‘I’m not scared of it at all.'” Pintauro and Will Tabares were married in 2014.

But as Pintauro explained to Winfrey, the diagnosis was also a “relief.”

“You spent so much time terrified that you’re going to get it,” he said. “You have it, and you don’t have to be terrified anymore.”

Pintauro revealed he was gay in 1997, after a reporter for the National Enquirer threatened to out him in the tabloid. “When I first came out, which was before everybody — Ellen [DeGeneres] and I came out the same year; Rosie [O’Donnell] came out four years after I did — I missed the opportunity to be a beacon of light for gay kids who were going through what I was going through,” he said. “Because I was outed, it wasn’t by choice.”

But now, with his HIV-positive diagnosis, Pintauro is hoping to become an activist. “I’m coming at this with good intentions and with big goals,” he said. “My goal is to literally go door to door making a difference somehow with both of these topics for the next year.”

For more on Pintauro, head to PEOPLE.

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